Why the Greek Life System is Broken, pt. 2

By Ryan Durden on December 11, 2012

Full Disclosure: I am not a member of a Greek organization, nor have I ever been. My goal is not to attack the members of these organizations, but to expose the flaws of the system as a whole.


In this week’s critique of the Greek system, I hope to lend credence to some of the commonly cited drawbacks of Greek life. Although there are plenty of singular instances supporting the following arguments, I will shy away from them; these articles unfairly represent the Greek system as a whole by depicting the behavior of one organization as characteristic of all organizations. I am in no way accusing every fraternity or sorority of being guilty of poor behavior. However, overarching statistics paint a clear picture of the drawbacks of the Greek system as a whole, and as such, they will provide the support for my arguments.

Undercover independents failing to blend in with Greeks.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Gattine via flickr.com

Alcohol Abuse

There’s no reason to deny it: alcohol abuse is among the most commonly reported drawbacks of Greek life. Fraternities and sororities are social organizations, and as a social lubricant, alcohol is peerless. In college, moderate alcohol use is largely consequence-free and often encouraged. The problems arise when use morphs into abuse, and while alcohol abuse is certainly not limited to fraternities, it is amplified by the Greek system. This excellent study provides comprehensive evidence indicating that Greek involvement perpetuates alcohol abuse. If you’re too busy to read the entire study, I strongly recommend that you examine the “Individual-Difference Factors” section and the “Results” section. Even though the study provides some damning evidence, its findings still only maintain that fraternity involvement encourages alcohol abuse. For outcomes of alcohol abuse, these government statistics indicate remarkably high numbers of sexual assaults, personal injuries, and drunk driving incidents. While it would be unrealistic and unfair to maintain that all of these statistics are accounted for by Greek activity, the evidence provided indicates that these occurrences would be more likely to occur within the Greek system. Greek organizations appear to attract and foster those who abuse alcohol, encouraging a wide range of detrimental behavior.


I hesitate to even mention hazing within fraternities because of the limited research and the prevalence of hazing among all campus organizations. Nevertheless, hazing tends to coincide with alcohol abuse, and Greek organizations are often implicated in hazing deaths nationwide. Again, these findings are certainly not true of every Greek organization, but it is an all too common problem with the Greek system. Superficially, hazing is intended to build unity; mutual suffering by a pledge class would ideally bond the group together. While the effectiveness of that manner of thinking is debatable, it’s proposed that hazing is just another way to encourage conformity, similar to wearing letters or establishing a specific dress code. However, at its core, hazing is an abject way for current members to exert power over potential members, not for the betterment of the individual or the group, but for the thrill of controlling another person. There is no benefit to be gained from hazing that could not be achieved through another process, and the risk of killing someone is entirely too high for simple membership in an organization. Again, this process is not exclusive to Greek organizations by any means and the definitions are broad, but the fact that it’s institutionalized in many fraternities and sororities indicates that the system itself is not functioning in the best interest of its members or the universities.

Misplaced Energy

The main point of these two articles is that the current Greek system wastes one of the most valuable resources available to college campuses. Greek organizations accumulate some of the most active, loyal, and wealthy students from an intelligent society and squander their gifts by fostering an immature culture focused on immediate gratification and exclusivity. Many of these men and women will become successful in the future and donate money to the universities that helped provide “the best years of our lives.” However, the opportunity to create lasting change as a student is fleeting, yet uniquely available to members of Greek organizations. No other organizations have the ability to coordinate current students, alumni, and significant wealth as well as fraternities and sororities. Yet, these organizations are not the models of success they claim to be. In a time of economic strain such as this, members would do well to reform the broken Greek system. Right now, universities and their students could do without the partying and discord that is being provided; we need the student leadership and activism that Greeks can provide.



Ryan Durden is a Clemson student who enjoys satire, travel, and complaining about Columbia, South Carolina. He would cherish any constructive criticism and baked goods you send his way. His inspirations include Dave Barry, Daniel O'Brien, and his muse, Natalie Portman.

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